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Travel Visa Services: The Best and Worst Times to Use Them

One of the first things you should do when you’re planning a trip, even before you book those flights, is to find out if you need a visa.

If the answer is yes you then need to figure out how and when you’re going to get it.

Sometimes it’s so easy you can do it over a cup on your phone or computer. Other times it can involve daunting forms or having to go into a consulate for an interview.

Which is why I think there are good times and bad times to use a travel visa service.

For example, if you need an ESTA to visit the USA or an ETA to go to Canada their online visa forms are so easy to fill out that it’s a waste to pay someone else to do it for you. They’re also really cheap, with the ESTA costing US$14 and the ETA only C$7, so if you see sites trying to sell you one for $100 or something crazy, say nice try and bye bye.

Another really bad time to pay a company for a visa is when they’re a dodgy third party website that can put you at risk of having your identity stolen when you share your passport and other personal details with them.

So you can see that I’m a bit of a cautious cat when it comes to using a visa service for travels.

But then I chatted to Sergio Merino, one of the co-founders of iVisa.com and realised there are times when it does make sense to pay for the service and save yourself some time and potential headaches.

Make sure you have your visa before you fly

When the Visa Application Process is Confusing

Like so many business ideas, Sergio came up with iVisa after wishing he could use something like that himself.

“I started it because the Government of Argentina had built a terrible website to pay the Argentina Reciprocity Fee (the visa for US citizens to get into the country).

“I then realized that many countries were offering electronic visas and were not doing a good job at making it simple for travellers, so we thought there was a void to be filled and that’s how we started expanding into other countries visas.”

Some government websites don’t make things easy for travellers. For example you do need to organise your visa before you go to India (you can’t just get it when you arrive) but some of the issues people have with the Indian Government Website include the site crashing, the website just spinning when you try to add information, and not accepting some foreign cards.

Using iVisa for an Indian visa will cost an extra US$35 for a tourist eVisa or US$45 for a business or medical eVisa.

Apart from offering a ‘zero frustration policy’ where you just give them your details and the date you’re flying in and they do all the rest, you won’t get caught having to pay again if you make a mistake on your application. If iVisa is rejected for an error, they pay and try again.

They also have a 24/7 support centre, so if you have any questions about your application on a Saturday night, or if you’re wondering if they can rush a visa through, you can pick up the phone and talk to a real, live person.

As someone who has wasted hours waiting on hold to a consulate in the past, I sure wish I’d known about this one back then.

When You Need Visas for Multiple Countries

So your next big trip will see you travelling around different countries and they all need a visa?

Even if those websites were relatively easy to negotiate, it’s a time saver to be able to create a single account, put all of your details in just that once, and then let iVisa create separate visa applications for the different countries.

If the visa application is rejected for some reason, iVisa will also refund their fees. They won’t be able to give you back the fee the government agency took, but you won’t be out of pocket for using their service.

By the time Sergio had explained all the advantages to using their system I’ll admit he’d turned me around. So much so I was not only making notes in my diary to use them the next time I was on a trickier visa trip, but I also decided to become an affiliate.

Which means if you click on one of the iVisa links on my blog then I get a little something for it, but don’t worry it’s at no extra cost to you.

Here’s to making our travels as easy to organise as possible, and to never forgetting to check if we need a visa when we start planning our next adventure.

Online visas can be quick and easy

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